November is national adopt a senior pet month.
Every year for the month of November, senior pets are celebrated throughout animal industries. During the month, many rescues and clinics focus on adopting elder companions and often have promotional offers. Dogs and cats age at a much faster rate than humans and their remaining time is dependent on the care they receive.
“As a puppy or kitten, they age very quickly. In the first year of their life, there is incredible growth. The growth curve is quite high. It plateaus in their adult years where they don’t age that much and then towards the later years in their life, they age very quickly again,” said Dr. Laura McKenny.
On average, dogs are seniors at seven, while cats are typically considered seniors at eight years old. As they get older, they can develop health concerns. Common medical conditions in senior pets include periodontal disease, osteoarthritis and kidney disease.
“Every six months is a good idea [for check ups] and a minimum of annual blood work. We are looking for changes on the blood work that may not be really apparent. Maybe the pet is sleeping more or not eating as much and we just chalk those up to aging changes, but there could actually be some medical reason for it. Blood work is a really good screening tool to catch that early,” said McKenny.
The rule of thumb is one year to a human is six to seven years to a dog or cat. The first year of a pet’s life is equivalent to 14 human years. This age differentiation does vary throughout their life and it is significant to the animal’s wellbeing so pet owners understand how to best care for their companions in each stage of their life, and specifically when they are considered seniors. Adopting a senior animal can have many benefits.
“They’re awesome. They’re all house-trained, well-behaved and a lot mellower. They know what they like, what they dislike. They’re less work overall for adopters,” said Ciara Healy, communications coordinator at the Calgary Humane Society.
The local shelter has many seniors surrendered every year. The Calgary Humane Society took in 533 senior animals in 2020.
“The numbers nearly double for cats. For example, from the start of 2020 there were 327 senior cats surrendered and the [senior] dogs were at 150. I think this is because cats tend to live longer so there are more senior cats in the population,” said Healy.
Every animal brings along a unique set of responsibilities for an adopter, however; it is their individual personalities that truly make each one special.
"That companionship is what is really enjoyable, it’s why we have pets, for the human-animal bond,” said McKenny.
Laura McKenny, DVM, Westland Veterinary Hospital
Ciara Healy, Communications Coordinator, Calgary Humane Society
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